Rewarding Employees Creatively

If you don't have the money for large bonuses or extravagant end-of-the-year parties, consider these methods to thank employees.

By Dr. David G. Javitch

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. You want to demonstrate your appreciation for your employees, but don't have the discretionary funds for a large, formal party or bonuses.

As the entrepreneurial boss, you have two criteria to meet:

  • You want to celebrate the holiday season.
  • You want to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of your employees.

If you can't afford to throw a party, don't feel guilty. Often at these events, someone drinks too much or acts inappropriately. This can ruin the fun and create awkwardness at the office for those guilty of indiscretion.

Nevertheless, employees often assume that most companies will have some kind of an end-of-the-year celebration. In addition to celebrating the holiday, it's the perfect opportunity to recognize your employees' efforts and accomplishments. And why not? People need to have their self-esteem reinforced. They try hold the jobs that will bring them the most fulfillment, whether that comes from salary, job satisfaction, status, power or other factors.

And recognizing employee actions, efforts and accomplishments is a very significant way to motivate your workers to increase their achievement levels. When their attempts pay off, they feel satisfied and productive. It's a win-win situation for the employee and the employer.

You shouldn't wait until the end of the year, however, to recognize your employees. You should be doing this on an ongoing basis and certainly during the performance appraisals held semi-annually or quarterly. At the end of the year, you can complement your earlier efforts by publicly recognizing the good work of your employees. Basically, what you want to say is, "We value you and thank you for your performance this past year."

In addition to the formal party, bonuses are another common end-of-the-year way to recognize employee achievement. But a financial reward is just one way to say thanks. It does have some disadvantages.

Some research proves that point. Unfortunately, within a very short period of time, the employee actually forgets about the bonus. In any case, a few months down the line, the money no longer serves as a motivation. In fact, when the Wirthlin Worldwide organization asked employees how they used their bonus money, it found the following:

  • 29 percent paid bills
  • 18 percent couldn't remember where the money went
  • 11 percent purchased gifts
  • 11 percent purchased household items
  • 11 percent put it in savings

Rewarding employees can be done in many other ways using just a little creativity. Here's a list of some alternatives to the typical and expensive company party. Some are especially noteworthy for smaller companies whose budget isn't very large.

  • Take the staff out to dinner.
  • Take the employees to lunch and then give them the rest of the afternoon off.
  • Allow employees to leave at noon on four Fridays during the year.
  • Allow employees to come in late on four Monday mornings during the year.
  • Go to a movie.
  • Recognize employee successes at any of the above events.
  • Provide a certificate for dinner, a spa, a massage, entertainment, sporting events, bookstores, department stores, travel, cooking lessons, cultural events or a weekend at a nice hotel.
  • Contribute to a charity or cause in the employee's name.
  • Distribute a turkey or fruit basket.
  • Have a party for the kids--or nieces, nephews or grandchildren--of the employees
  • Purchase a prepaid credit or gift card.

Participating in community events is another way to demonstrate your company's commitment to the neighborhood. While it does not specifically recognize employee achievement, it does let everyone know that the company is interested in the wellbeing of others and wants to be a good corporate citizen. In so doing, the employees can be proud of their company. Here are a few suggestions for community events:

  • Volunteer at a homeless or women's shelter, a food bank or a soup kitchen.
  • Bring a meal to a shelter and serve it.
  • Collect warm clothes to give away at the shelter.
  • Participate in a clean-up of a local area.
  • Provide gifts for residents at a nursing home or geriatric facility.
  • Volunteer to read at or visit a pre-school or nursing home.
  • Volunteer at a boys or girls club.
  • Help build a Habitat for Humanity house.
  • Ask your employees if they have any charities or causes they would like to help.

Whatever your decision, make sure that your employees feel that you value their participation and involvement in helping your organization reach its goal. Let them know that you have had a successful year and appreciate their efforts.

After all, isn't that the best holiday gift?

Dr. David G. Javitch

Dr. David G. Javitch is an organizational psychologist, leadership specialist, and President of Javitch Associates in Newton, Mass. Author of How to Achieve Power in Your Life, Javitch is in demand as a consultant for his skills in assessment, coaching, training and facilitating groups and retreats.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

I'm a Former Google Recruiter. Here's How to Land a Job in Tech — and What Can Blow Your Interview

A former Google recruiter says layoffs may be trendy, but tech workers are always needed. Here's how to land a job at a major tech company.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Growing a Business

The No.1 Most Bankable Skill You Must Have to Succeed in 2023

If you don't foster this skill, you'll fall behind the pack financially and professionally in 2023.

Starting a Business

5 Ways Entrepreneurship Can Help Teenagers Overcome Negative Peer Pressure

Here are some of the positives teenage entrepreneurship can have concerning peer pressure.

Starting a Business

Is Your Start Up Safe? Here Are 7 Reminders On How To Protect It

Your start-up company is your baby. Whether you have a company or are thinking about starting one, don't forget these seven ways that it can be easily attacked without proper precautions.